American Revolution and immigration

2011-01-20 13:14:25

When tensions arising from the financial strain of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) erupted into war between Britain and 13 of its American colonies in 1775, colonists were forced to take sides. In 1763, most had considered themselves loyal subjects of the British Crown, but a series of measures enacted by the government in London over the next 12 years had slowly turned most Americans against the arbitrary rule of King George III (r. 1760–1820). The Proclamation of 1763, limiting westward expansion; the Sugar Act (1764), Stamp Act (1765), Townshend duties (1767), and Tea Act (1773), aimed at raising revenue in the American colonies, despite their lack of representation in the British parliament; and the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts (1774), Quebec Act (1774), and Prohibitory Act (1775), designed to enforce royal authority gradually eroded American support for the British monarch.
By 1775 only about one in five Americans declared themselves loyal to the British Crown. As the American Revolution progressed and the rebels gained the upper hand, particularly in the southern colonies, these Loyalists congregated in ports controlled by the British navy. Following the peace settlement in the Treaty of Paris (1783), between 40,000 and 50,000 Loyalists were resettled in Britain’s northern colonies. About 15,000 went to both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, about 10,000 to Quebec. Included among the Loyalist settlers were 3,000 blacks who had been granted freedom in return for military service. The rapid influx of Loyalists into largely French-speaking Quebec led directly to a reevaluation of British governance in its remaining colonies. Settlers, many of whom had served in the British military, were dissatisfied with the French institutions they found there. As a result, Quebec was divided into the provinces of Lower Canada (modern Quebec) and Upper Canada (modern Ontario), a division made permanent by the Constitutional Act of 1791. Loyalists were encouraged to move to Upper Canada, where they were allowed to establish traditional British laws, customs, and institutions.